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Conquer This: Alexander the Great Bio Gets Go-Ahead

One of Hollywood's Gordian knots has been sliced into wee shreds of innocuous string by writer/director Christopher McQuarrie. The Oscar-winning "Usual Suspects" writer has been keen on directing a biopic of Alexander the Great, but until recently the project was beset by obstacles. Now, after years of development hell, Variety reports that McQuarrie and producing partner Ken Kokin will receive $85 million to bring the ancient world's greatest conqueror to the screen.

With historical adaptations like "Braveheart" earning heavy box office and multiple Oscar nominations it's odd that Alexander the Great's life hasn't already been mined by a big studio. A sprawling story about a young leader who conquers most of the ancient world before reaching his 25th birthday would be deemed unrealistic if it hadn't actually happened. But happen it did, and as an added bonus, Alexander had a reputation for getting jiggy whenever possible. Academics and over-educated blowhards contend that Alexander's greatest achievement was conquering the ancient world, but I believe his high point was the rolling bacchanal he staged as his army marched through the desert.

The rolling party and similar stories will put McQuarrie in a bind, challenging him to separate fact and myth. Historically he'll be held to a high standard because his pop culture interpretation will become far better known than the well-researched, scholarly Alexander biographies used in classics courses. On the other hand, McQuarrie is a storyteller and no storyteller in his or her right mind would ditch an opportunity to tell a juicy tale about a god-like figure just because it might be apocryphal. McQuarrie's finished product will probably be an interpretation of Alexander rather than a straight biography. It'll build upon known history with flashes of myth and jaw-dropping battle scenes.

Unfortunately, it's going to be a while before this project gets off the ground because the film won't go into production until next summer's SAG strike is averted or finished. On the bright side, the added time offers plenty of opportunity to brush up on your Alexander knowledge by consulting some of the many online resources (can you tell I was a history minor?).

Posted by Mac on December 12, 2000 05:22 PM
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